As people increasingly turn to social media, sometimes it falls into the wrong hands. Such is the case with Skout, a rapidly growing global network launched with the sole intention of people meeting each other virtually.
According to the company’s website, “Life is short, you are busy and people are having fun without you right now. So start Skouting and find your party, anytime, anywhere.”
Yet it seems as if this party was over before it started, as recently three men allegedly raped children they met using the mobile app.
A horrific turn of events for a website that has been developed to bring people together, not cause traumatizing and life altering occurrences. According to The New York Times, these charges have caused managers of Skout to closely analyze the privacy settings of their offering.
Originally kicking off as an app strikingly similar to Foursquare, where users could report their location via a check-in solution, the company then decided to transition into a service specifically designed for 13- to 17-year-olds after seeing an influx of young adults within that age group flocking to the app like pigeons in New York City to crumbs on the street.
Receiving around $22 million in financing from Andreessen Horowitz, a major venture capital firm locate in the Silicon Valley back in April which helped the business to significantly expand, no one would have predicted that in these rape cases grown men would stoop to the all time low of pretending to be teenagers in a Skout forum for these still-not-yet-sound-minded individuals. In one of the reported cases, a 15-year-old Ohio girl claims she was raped by a 37-year-old man. Additionally in the second, a 24-year-old man is being questioned in regards to the rape of a 12-year-old girl in California, while in the third situation, a 21-year-old man from Waukesha, Wis., is being investigated for sexually assaulting a 13-year-old boy.
“I’m disgusted by what’s happened here,” Christian Wiklund, Skout’s founder, said in the piece. “One case is too many. When you have three, it looks like a pattern. This is my worst fear.”
Wiklund added that his hands are now tied and he is forced to bar minors from using the service which was developed to promote fun, which alienates a “significant” portion of its current member base, while next-generation safeguards are added.
These sad and extremely sickening instances highlight the larger problem of how do we keep underage kids protected from deranged individuals like the ones mentioned above who do whatever they can to target this age group via incredibly popular social sites? As a parent, do you tell your offspring they aren’t allowed to use these sites all together?
I’m not a parent yet, but here are some helpful tips for those of you out there that are, because let’s face it, if you tell your adolescent not to do something, they will most likely do it with purpose.
First, always be sure to closely monitor what your children are looking at over the Internet, as it can be a very scary place for naïve individuals. And second, talk to your kids openly about the dangers of cyber predators and create a dialogue which makes them feel comfortable talking about any Internet-related issues they may be having – no matter how small.
“We’re seeing more of these cases,” concluded Lt. Craig Carter of the Escondido Police Department. “Parents need to be aware that their kids could be on these websites. In this case, if her parents had taken her phone and looked at her messages on Skout, they would have immediately seen inappropriate responses for someone that is 12 years old.”
TechZone360 Web Editor
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